Professors Cathy Popkin and David Yao are the recipients of this year’s Great Teacher Awards, awarded annually by the Society of Columbia Graduates.
Popkin has taught in the department of Slavic languages and literatures since 1986 and specializes in 19th- and 20th-century Russian literature, particularly Chekhov.
She is also a member of the Educational Policy and Planning Committee, a new educational committee charged with coordinating communication across the Faculty of Arts and Sciences.
Coincidentally, Popkin learned that she had won the award when she checked her email in the lobby of the New York City Center while seeing “Uncle Vanya,” a Chekhov play.
“It’s the nicest thing in the world to be recognized for teaching,” she said. “I’m so honored.”
In addition to the opportunity to teach students of different academic levels and ages, Popkin said the Core Curriculum played a major factor in her decision to continue to teach here.
“I love the ethos of Columbia,” she said. “When 1,000 people are trying to make sense of the same thing at the same time, it’s stunning—that’s one of the things that I really value about this place.”
Yao served as an assistant professor of industrial engineering and operations research for three years before moving to Harvard for a stint as an associate professor. He returned to Columbia in 1988 and was promoted to full professor the same year.
In addition to designing the masters program in financial engineering at SEAS, Yao holds four U.S. patents in supply chain logistics and manufacturing operations.
Established in 1949, the award is presented to two faculty members—one from Columbia College and one from the School of Engineering and Applied Science—who exhibit the ability to “stimulate, challenge, and inspire” students inside and outside of the classroom and possess a “recognized standing in academic discipline,” according to the statement.